New teams, new bonds, summer sunshine… it’s social media heaven! You literally cannot take a bad pic in summer and you’re guaranteed at least 1.5x the likes than any other time of the year… but, should you be sharing that?
For athletes under 18, there’s a lot to think about when sharing on social media, and it’s not all about you. For parents, when you share photos of kids (both yours and other peoples!) you are wading into the weird territory of digital consent. And for everyone, it’s ultimately about safety; it’s about the friends you tagged in the pic, the location tags, and all your posts combined which help outsiders build out a full profile of who you are, where you live, work and cheer, what your schedule is like and your favorite places to hang out.
It’s not about being a buzzkill, it’s about being smart social media participants and navigating new norms together!
Tips for Athletes
If you’re old enough to have an IG, Twitter, SnapChat, TikTok (even if it’s private, or monitored by mom/dad) there are a few easy precautions to take to keep you—and your friends—safe online.
- If you’re not on private, consider locking down your profile. Follower counts won’t determine your popularity, even though it might feel like it right now.
- What you post now WILL affect your adult life. Consider college applications, scholarships, jobs… it feels like all of that is far away but underage drinking, drugs, smoking, even the comments people post can all affect how you are seen. When it comes to social media, perception IS reality.
- Following on from that, don’t say the n-word, make slant-eyes or anything else you think is harmless but is actually very hurtful to many people. There are lots of ways to be cool and funny, casual racism is not one of them.
- Unless it’s so obvious there is no point in hiding it, don’t geotag your pics. It gives creepers way too much information about you and the places you like to hang out.
- Creepers are not your fault, ever. It’s never your fault if they target you, or if they make comments or try to send you direct messages. Lock down your profile, don’t ever communicate with anyone via DM unless you know who they are (you’re going to have to disappoint some fans, sorry kids) and never ever give out your phone number. If something feels off, it probably is, and always tell your parents.
- If someone posts a pic of you and tags you and you’re not comfortable with it, you have every right to ask them to take it down. If they won’t, ask a parent to contact their parents, or ask a parent to contact their gym. You have a right to feel comfortable with your online presence.
- Finstas. We all know they exist. And they’re nowhere near as secret or private as you think. Don’t do it. It’s seriously not worth it.
Tips for Parents
There is a fair amount of research going on right now about the effects of social media on young people, especially girls. The psychological effects of being asked to smile, pose and promote brands or products—or just to smile for grandma—values compliance and their physical self over how they feel about participating in an impromptu photo shoot. Kids learn quickly that mom/dad will be happy when I do this, when I pose like this I get more likes and they are even happier. Children thrive off approval!
- Monitor social media, not just your kids’ accounts but make an account yourself and be actively lurking to watch trends, see what’s going on and what’s popular right now. It may help you save your kid from eating tide pods 😉
- It’s awesome your 8yr old flyer prodigy can do a worlds’ team stunt on two grown men… we know you’re proud of them, heck we are probably in awe of their talent too! But considering the motions older athletes do, think about the impression that may give to someone else seeing your kid in a sports bra and shorts performing a globe winning stunt. Outside the bubble of cheerleading, is it normal? If in doubt, put a tee on them, it goes a long way to pulling focus to the athletic activity.
- It’s not your identity to use. Your children are underage and don’t understand consent or what they’re consenting to. You wouldn’t use your child’s social security number to take out lines of credit, similarly, their online identity and digital footprint are theirs to craft when they’re old enough to do so—with your guidance. If they’re in their teens and want to branch out into making YouTube videos and being models for companies, have an honest, open conversation about why they want to do it and support them by monitoring the relationship with the company, the subscribers, comments, and private messages.
- Be mindful of publicizing the full names and ages of your children, or others. It’s also a good general practice to check with other parents about sharing pics of their kids online.
- It’s well-known that images of a single child can be more easily manipulated to look sexual and sell for more on the dark web. When celebrating accomplishments, milestones, or just a really great day out, pile everyone into the pics and try to avoid that single perfect kid shot.
- Unless it’s so obvious there is no point in hiding it, don’t geotag your pics, or take pics outside their school, church or any place you feel safe leaving your children for extended periods of time. It doesn’t take much for a predator to plot your schedule.
Social media is unavoidable and can be a great way for people to connect, share, like and celebrate our sport. There’s a downside to it too, and a dark side. Being aware, checking your profiles regularly, and be cautious of people and brands wanting to use you for their own gain!